Late-onset agoraphobia: general population incidence and evidence for a clinical subtype

Am J Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;170(7):790-8. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.12091235.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to estimate the general population incidence of late-life agoraphobia and to define its clinical characteristics and risk factors.

Method: A total of 1,968 persons ≥65 years old were randomly recruited from the electoral rolls of the district of Montpellier, France. Prevalent and incident agoraphobia diagnosed with a standardized psychiatric examination and validated by a clinical panel were assessed at baseline and over a 4-year follow-up.

Results: The 1-month baseline prevalence of agoraphobia was estimated to be 10.4%. Among persons with agoraphobia, 10.9% reported having their first episode at age 65 or above. During the 4-year follow-up, 11.2% of participants without agoraphobia at baseline had a first episode, resulting in an incidence rate of 32 per 1,000 person-years. These 132 incident late-onset cases were associated with higher incidence rates of anxiety disorders and suicidal ideation. Of the incident cases, only two were characterized by past or concurrent panic attacks, a rate that was not significantly different from that of the noncase group. The principal baseline risk factors for incident cases, derived from a multivariate model incorporating all significant risk factors, were younger age at onset (odds ratio=0.94, 95% CI=0.90-0.99), poorer visuospatial memory performance (odds ratio=1.60, 95% CI=1.02-2.49), severe depression (odds ratio=2.62, 95% CI=1.34-5.10), and trait anxiety (odds ratio=1.73, 95% CI=1.03-2.90). No significant association was found with cardiac pathologies.

Conclusions: Agoraphobia has a high prevalence in the elderly, and unlike cases in younger populations, late-onset cases are not more common in women and are not associated with panic attacks, suggesting a late-life subtype. Severe depression, trait anxiety, and poor visuospatial memory are the principal risk factors for late-onset agoraphobia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Agoraphobia / classification
  • Agoraphobia / complications
  • Agoraphobia / epidemiology*
  • Agoraphobia / psychology
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Panic Disorder / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors